It’s official! The PBA is back!

After months of waiting and months of hard work by the PBA Board of Governors, the top basketball league in the Philippines will resume it’s 45th season and will continue the interrupted 2020 Philippine Cup.

The PBA is making its return with a huge double header games on Sunday inside the PBA Bubble at Angeles University Foundation (AUF) in Angeles City, Pampanga.

It will be the newly named Talk ‘n Text Tropang Giga taking on the young feisty Alaska Aces in the first game at 4:00 p.m. Followed by the clash between the two top contenders this conference. The NLEX Road Warriors will be going head-to-head with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at 7:00 p.m

The return of the PBA will be very different as not only will it happen in a different venue, but the league will also be missing the presence of two great big men in San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo and Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter. Although, their respective teams will surely miss them, this opens the race for the title and making it possible for anyone to come out on top of the Philippine Cup Conference.

Here is the full schedule this season in the Bubble.

But before we all witness the restart of the PBA in the bubble, let’s take a look at the teams that will be competing in the bubble and what to watch out for as the season progress.

PBA Teams Roster:

Alaska Aces

The Alaska Aces had a very interesting run during the last Governors’ Cup.

They traded multiple assets to acquire younger talents like Abu Tratter, Robbie Herndon, Maverick Ahanmisi, Rodney Brondial and Mike DiGregorio.

They also acquired rookies Barkley Eboña, Jaycee Marcelino and Rey Publico via draft.

Along with the young talents they got via trades and the draft, the Aces still have multiple young core talents on the team in Jeron Teng, Kevin Racal and Jesper Ayaay with the veteran proven guys in Vic Manuel and JVee Casio.

Last conference, Alaska started with 0-5 record but were still able to reach the playoffs as the seventh seed before losing in the quarterfinals.

During that short playoff run, the Aces showed tons of promise as head coach Jeff Cariaso and the crew solidified themselves as one of the dark horses in his conference.

Alaska is one of the youngest teams in the league but there is no question that the talent they possess could pull off something big. The biggest concern now is: will their maturity hold up in games that they need to step up in, or will the young players get gun shy in the wrong moments?

Barangay Ginebra

Minutes after winning their third Governors’ Cup in four years last season, the head coach of the most famous team in PBA history, Tim Cone quickly declared that they’ll be going for the All-Filipino Cup title this season.

Now, entering the bubble, Barangay Ginebra will be looking to fulfill its goal without a giant factor on its team.

Last February, their center Greg Slaughter announced that he’ll be taking a break from basketball after his contract expired. Everyone was shocked with his decision as at the time, rumors of him being traded for NorthPort Batang Pier’s big-man Christian Standhardinger were spreading like wild fire.

During his time away, he trained in the US and signed with a top European Agency, BeoBasket. The same agency that represents multiple NBA and European ballers, including Denver Nuggets’ star Nikola Jokic. There were also talks of Slaughter trying for the NBA G-League.

However, despite the fact that the seven-foot-tall Slaughter won’t be joining Barangay Ginebra, they are still one of the heavy favorites to win this conference.

2019 Governors’ Cup Finals MVP, Japeth Aguilar is expected to have his best basketball season this 45th season of the league. He’ll have back up in the form of the all-around point guard, Scottie Thompson, the explosive scorer, Stanley Pringle, veteran guys in, LA Tenorio, Joe Devance, Jeff Chan, Jared Dillinger and Mark Caguioa and rising star Art Dela Cruz.

The Kings also drafted three high caliber rookies in Kent Salado, Arvin Tolentino and Jerrick Balanza.

There is no question that Barangay GInebra is a championship caliber team, but the question is, will they be able to pull it off or will it just be another conference full of what if for the Kings?

Blackwater Bossing

A fresh start is what the Blackwater franchise wants this season.

After being plagued with controversies last season and during the offseason, the Blackwater Bossing want to reset and start a new culture.

The Bossing, then known as the Elite, made some noise during the offseason. They hired coach Nash Racela to be the permanent head coach of the team and assigned interim head coach Aris Dimaunahan to the first assistant coach position.

Blackwater also added multiple young talents. Last Governors’ Cup, they traded away star rookie Ray Parks to TNT Tropang Giga for Tony Semerad, Don Trollano, and a 2021 first round pick.

Trollano stayed with the Bossing but Semerad was later included in the three-team trade that saw Poy Erram go from NLEX to TNT, which also landed Ed Daquioag and Marion Magat to Blackwater.

Blackwater also added veteran rookie big-man Maurice Shaw and former FEU standout Richard Escoto.

Shaw is expected to become one of the culture changers in the squad along with the main guns in Diego Dario, Roi Sumang, Mike Tolomia, Paul Desiderio and superstar Mac Belo.

With Racela at the helm, along with several phenomenal young talents on the squad, expect Blackwater to make some noise in the Philippine Cup.

Magnolia Hotshots

In last year’s Philippine Cup, the Magnolia Hotshots were one point away from dethroning the San Miguel Beermen and winning the 2019 title.

Now, heading into the 2020 Philippine Cup, head coach Chito Victolero admitted that they’re very motivated as they try to capture this year’s All-Filipino trophy.

With Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo sitting out this conference, Hotshots big-man Ian Sangalang is heavily expected to have an MVP caliber performance this season. The six-foot-seven Center from Pampanga has been struggling with injuries lately but is now fully healthy and ready to dominate.

Magnolia upgraded its roster last season and during the offseason. They acquired Chris Banchero via trade as well as Jackson Corpuz and both are expected to make an immediate positive impact on the team.

Main stays Paul Lee, Mark Barocca, Jio Jalalon and Rome Dela Rosa are still on the team as well as veteran big-man Rafi Reavis. They also added rookie Aris Dionisio on the team and is expected to be productive veteran leader Marc Pingris will not be joining the squad this conference due to injury.

The Hotshots definitely upgraded their roster, and this makes them a contending team. However, it will only happen if Sangalang can live up to the expectations. The question now is whether or not he can stay healthy and become the difference maker everyone is expecting him to be.

Meralco Bolts

The Meralco Bolts haven’t had a winning run in the Philippine Cup. Through the past nine years of the franchise, they’ve only reached the playoffs five times, and ended up in being kicked out during the quarterfinal round. In the last four years, they didn’t reach the playoffs at all.

However, in this year’s Philippine Cup, it seems that the Bolts could have a big run. Although they won’t be having the services of big-man Raymond Almazan right away, as he is still recovering from injury, they still have a competitive line-up.

The duo of Chris Newsome and Baser Amer are expected to lead the team and will be backed up by exceptional young gun Bong Quinto along with Trevis Jackson and veteran guys like Cliff Hodge, Allein Maliksi, Anjo Caram, Nico Salva, Nord Pinto and Rey Hugnatan.

Meralco also drafted an all-around rookie in Aaron Black.

The Bolts will eventually have the services of Almazan and with a full squad, they will be in the playoff hunt. The question is whether they can be consistent enough to secure one of the eight seeds to reach the post-season of the Philippine Cup Conference.

NLEX Road Warriors

Let’s start it off with one of the first four teams that will be competing this Sunday.

The NLEX Road Warriors are coming off a disappointing 2019 Governors’ Cup run. After they secured the number one seed in the regular season, they got bounced out in the quarterfinals by the eighth-seeded NorthPort Batang Pier after losing to them twice with Game 2 being one of the best games in recent memory.

Now, heading into the Philippine Cup, Head Coach Yeng Guiao and the Road Warriors are looking to once again repeat what they did last conference but this time, they want things to end with them raising the trophy.

Last month, NLEX was able to secure its dynamic guard duo of Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas by signing them to three-year deals and ensuring that the franchise will have two deadly guards for the future.

Although, the Road Warriors will be entering the bubble without the services of veteran wingman Larry Fonacier, Guiao is expecting veteran rookie, Mike Ayonayon to step up and take his spot in the roster.

NLEX still has guys like Mike Miranda, Paul Varilla, Kris Porter, Kenneth Ighalo, Jericho Cruz and Philip Paniamogan on the squad and all are expected to be the right complementary pieces for its main guys Ravena and Alas.

The Road Warriors have had great runs in conferences where they have imports, however, they haven’t been successful during the All-Filipino Conference, the big question for them now is with their roster and with the absence of Fajardo and Slaughter, can they make a big run or is it time to trade some pieces for another star in the league?

NorthPort Batang Pier   

Dubbed as the “Dark Horse” of the Philippine Cup, the NorthPort Batang Pier is the team that no one wants to meet in the playoffs.

Last conference, they shocked everyone by becoming the fourth eighth-seeded team in the PBA to pull of an upset in the quarterfinals by dispatching the top seeded Road Warriors despite have a twice-to-beat disadvantage.

The Batang Pier did it without the services of star rookie Robert Bolick and with newly acquired Christian Standhardinger as the main guy in the squad.

Now, heading into the Philippine Cup, the Fil-German Standhardinger is looking more ready than ever to have an MVP-caliber run this season since Fajardo and Slaughter are out of the picture.

He’ll be backed up by veterans Sean Anthony, Nico Elorde, newly acquired LA Revilla and Kevin Ferrer.

NorthPort will still have to wait before they’ll be able to see Bolick and Standhardinger wreak havoc in the court together as the former San Beda University star is still recoverin from his ACL injury.

The Batang Pier added great talent from the draft after drafting former Adamson star, Sean Manganti and former University of Sto. Tomas guard Renzo Subido.

With Head Coach Pido Jarencio’s tough mindset and NorthPort having tough dog players, it will be a big mistake to count them out this Philippine Cup.

Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters

The Phoenix Fuel Masters had a very rocky 2019 season. Aside from losing star forward Calvin Abueva to an indefinite suspension, they failed to have some success in the post season as well, only reaching one out of the three conferences.

In the offseason, the Fuel Masters also decided to fire Louie Alas and have coach Topex Robinson to takeover with the head coaching duties.

Now, Phoenix is looking to put all those events behind and have a reset in the bubble.

Still led by superstar Matthew Wright, along with versatile big-man Jason Perkins and young gun Jorey Napoles, the Fuel Masters will be looking to make a big run in the upcoming conference.

Wright is once again expected to become the main guy for Phoenix as in the past two Philippine Cups, he’s been averaging 18.3 points on 36% shooting at the field with 5.8 rebounds per game.

Although, there is a big chance that Abueva will finally be making his long-waited return to the PBA, Phoenix will still look to have success right away with or without “The Beast” on their side.

Rain or Shine Elasto Painters

By the start of the PBA bubble, a new era will begin for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters: the era of their two new stars Rey Nambatac and Javee Mocon.

The young duo had a very impressive run last season, with Mocon being one of the candidates for the Rookie of the Year award and Nambatac for the Most Improved Players award.

The two won the trust of not only their coach Caloy Garcia, as well as their veteran leaders in Gabe Norwood, James Yap and Beau Belga.

Entering the Philippine Cup, the Elasto Painters drafted multiple rookies in Adrian Wong, Prince Rivero, Clint Doliguez and Vince Tolentino, and are all expected to add production.

Aside from the three veterans mentioned above, Ryan Arana, Kris Rosales, Jewel Ponferada and Norbert Torres will also be in the bubble to support Nambatac and Mocon.

With the new young stars, Rain or Shine has high hopes that they can finally win another title after a four-year drought. Their fate is now in the hands if Nambatac and Mocon.

San Miguel Beermen  

The defending champions San Miguel Beermen are still the team to beat despite missing their roster’s biggest piece.

The Beermen are looking for their sixth-consecutive Philippine Cup title this season. However, unlike their last five championship runs, they won’t have Fajardo on their squad.

Fajardo is still recovering from the complete fracture of his right tibia that ruled him out for the season.

Now, San Miguel will be looking to win the title without the Cebuano big man but despite that, it’s no question that the path to glory still goes through the SMB avenue.

The Beermen still have deadly wing guys in Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Von Pessumal. They also have top tier guards in Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross and Terrence Romeo.

They’ve also got some productive guys off the bench with Paul Zamar, Geo Alonilo, Russel Escoto and rookies Daniel De Guzman and Wendell Comboy.

They also have a replacement for Fajardo in Mo Tautuaa, whom coach Leo Austria has big expectations from.

San Miguel won its first game of the conference last March over Magnolia, 94-78. Reminding the league that they are still the top dogs in the PBA.

Terrafirma Dyip

The newly named Terrafirma Dyip is not the team you want to take lightly this season. They’ve gone from easy game to a tough challenge.

Led by last year’s Rookie of the Year and Scoring Champion, CJ Perez, along with shifty young point guard JP Calvo and rising star, Rashawn McCarthy, the team formerly known as Columbian Dyip made some noise last season.

Although, they failed to reach the playoffs, the Dyip solidified themselves as a team to watch out for.

Now, heading into the bubble, they got the number one pick of this year’s draft Roosevelt Adams, who is expected to be a strong partner for Perez. Along with him are the rookies from Letran in Chrisitan Balagasay and Bon Batiller.

If there is one team that could become the biggest shocker this season, it’s the Terrafirma squad.

TNT Tropang Giga

In a blink of an eye, the TNT Tropang Giga went from a championship contending team to a super team.

Last season, then known as TNT KaTropa, went to the playoffs in all three conferences and were able to make the Finals of the Commissioner’s Cup. However, they like many before them, they failed to take out the San Miguel Beermen, led by six-time MVP Fajardo.

During the off-season, the Tropang Giga faced some turbulences, they had some trouble in extending the contract of Ray Parks after acquiring him via trade from Blackwater in the latter part of the 2019 Governors’ Cup. Eventually, the second-generation star decided to re-sign with the blue and yellow squad.

Aside from Parks, TNT was able to acquire defensive star big-man Poy Erram via three-team trade from its sister team NLEX.

With the acquisition of Erram and the return of Parks along with the addition of rookie Kib Montalbo and veteran Simon Enciso, the Tropang Giga certainly has a super team.

Mainstays like Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario are still on the team.

The question for them now is that can their team chemistry be good enough for them to finally break the five-year championship drought or will egos be the downfall of this promising team?